Throughout the 2012 college season, TopDrawerSoccer.com will closely track some of the top candidates likely to make a successful jump to the pro ranks -- whether in MLS or elsewhere -- and track them on a weekly basis.
Here’s a look at some of the top performances from seniors and MLS Academy graduates from over the past week:
MLS SuperDraft Senior Highlight:
Stats: 76 games, 64 starts, 2 goals, 12 assists
Attributes: Left-footed defender, good pace, joins attack well and knows how to combine down the flank
Professional comparison: Marc Burch, Seattle Sounders
SuperDraft prediction: Second round/supplemental
Almost a four-year starter on what is one of the best teams in the nation this year, Nealis spends a lot of his time on the attack, getting down the left flank to open things up in the box for the plethora of attacking options his team possesses.
With regards to his physical tools, Nealis has good size, a strong sense of when to get forward and add to the attack and when to stay home and keep things tight. However, he will need to specifically prove that he can be defensively consistent in order to earn a contract and time in MLS next season. There’s little questioning that he can do that, it’s a matter of putting it all together.
And while his game may be reminiscent of Seattle’s Marc Burch, Nealis has spent most of his collegiate career as a defender, while Burch was converted to left back after playing collegiately as a forward, so it’s a bit of a variation.
Senior Pro Prospects
GK James Belshaw, Duke: His shutout streak came to an end on Tuesday night, as the Blue Devils fell 1-0 on the road to North Carolina. Belshaw’s season might be over if Duke doesn’t get an at large bid in the tournament, which is something of a long shot.
MF Mitchell Cardenas, Campbell: Finished the week with a goal and three assists in two games, but it was not enough for Campbell to escape the first round of the Big South Championship. Cardenas finishes the regular season with eight goals and 14 assists.
MF Paolo DelPiccolo, Louisville: Put two shots on frame in Saturday’s contest against Marquette but neither found the back of the net, and Louisville now awaits an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
D Joe Franco, Cal State Northridge: Named the Big West Defender of the Year earlier this week will help Franco’s draft stock. A run in the NCAA Tournament would do even more for his visibility on the national stage.
MF Jose Gomez, Creighton: Played 90 minutes in the Jays 2-1 win over Evansville last week. Creighton is rolling through the competition with eight wins in a row heading into the conference tournament.
MF Ryan Hollingshead, UCLA: Played a total of 212 minutes in the two overtime games for UCLA last week. Hollingshead and the Bruins are looking to capture the Pac-12 crown this Friday against San Diego State.
M Fernando Monge, UCLA: Named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after recording the golden goal against Stanford then leading the charge in a 1-1 draw against California. It was the first time in his career he received the honor.
F Devon Sandoval, New Mexico: Pushed his season tally to 14 goals and six assists with a goal and an assist in the 6-0 win over Houston Baptist. The target forward is the leading scorer for the Lobos.
D Eric Schoenle, West Virginia: Despite starting as a center back, Schoenle is the team’s leading scorer after bagging the game winner and helping his defense keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Bowling Green.
F Chris Thomas, Elon: Scored his 22nd goal of the season in Elon’s 2-1 win over Davidson on Saturday. Thomas leads Division I in goals scored with his next closest competition (Ryan Finley, Notre Dame) four goals back.
F Emery Welshmen, Oregon State: The Beavers had the week off in preparation for the final game of the season against Washington on Friday. Welshmen is still tied for top honors in the Pac-12 in goals and points.
F Paul Wyatt, James Madison: Playing mostly in the midfield, Wyatt continues to step up his play in the later stages of the season, scoring twice and adding an assist as JMU won 4-3 in the CAA conference tournament on Monday.
MLS Academy Products
MF Bryan Ciesiulka, Marquette (Chicago Fire, Junior): The Fire product and leader of Marquette had an assist in the 3-0 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday. He then scored the game-winner against Louisville on Saturday to put the Golden Eagles into the Big East Semifinal.
D Mikey Ambrose, Maryland (FC Dallas, Freshman): With Kemp back in the lineup, Ambrose was the starting right back, going 90 minutes in a 2-1 win in the ACC tournament.
D Bradley Bourgeois, Tulsa (Houston Dynamo, Freshman): Played 90 minutes in the 2-1 win over Kenny Arena’s FIU Panthers. Bourgeois and the Tulsa defense finished the regular season with a 1.22 goals against average.
F Gyasi Zardes, CSU Bakersfield (LA Galaxy, Junior): Zardes notched his ninth assist of the season in a 1-1 draw against Air Force. The Galaxy Academy product finished his final collegiate regular season with 14 goals, nine assists in 16 games.
MF Scott Caldwell, Akron (New England Revolution, Senior): Fitting that the senior grabbed the game winning goal on senior night, a 1-0 win over Western Michigan. The attack continues to flow through the midfielder.
F Sean Okoli, Wake Forest (Seattle Sounders, Sophomore): The Sounders product continues to play well. He scored and set up a goal in Wake’s 2-2 draw against Virginia that saw the Deacons get knocked out of the ACC tourney on penalty kicks.